A TERRIFIED woman sought sanctuary at the home of a stranger after being chased and attacked by her former partner, a court was told.

James Robert Cowell earlier turned up at the home of his ex-partner, 12 days after receiving a suspended prison sentence for breaching a restraining order forbidding him from contacting her.

Durham Crown Court heard that she had been messaging him seeking to resume their relationship, but asking him to behave differently.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said by replying, accusing her of “cheating” on him, it put him in breach of the order, imposed in March after he was jailed for 16 weeks for assaulting her.

While serving that sentence he sent her text messages from prison, which put him in breach of the order.

It led to his court appearance on May 14, when he received the 26-week suspended prison sentence.

Miss Haugstad said amid the subsequent flurry of messages, Cowell turned up at her home in The Middles, Stanley, at 3.30pm on May 26.

Accusing her of “cheating” and making other abusive comments, he pinned her against a kitchen unit, threatening to kill her.

She managed to free herself and ran from her home, with Cowell in pursuit, crossing a local nature reserve.

Cowell caught up with her on Durham Road, grabbing her by the throat, and, as she struggled to breath, he shouted: “You’re mine and I’m going to kill you.”

She broke free and fled in terror into a nearby home, while Cowell was outside calling her, “a grass”.

Miss Haugstad said the householder rang police and she told them her boyfriend had tried to strangle her.

A police photograph showed reddening where she had been held by the neck.

When arrested, Cowell presented a statement denying assaulting her, claiming he could not recall his movements that day..

Miss Haugstad said the victim tried to give a retraction statement on June 3 due to the effect of the episode on her mental health.

Cowell, 27, of Rosewood Terrace, Birtley, admitted assault and two counts of breaching the restraining order, but two of his pleas were only made on the day of trial.

Anthony Pettengell, mitigating, said having been affected by drink and drug misuse, Cowell managed to overcome a cocaine habit.

“It’s as great shame that that did not lead to an offence-free life.”

But Mr Pettengell said a lot of the contact with the ex-partner was initiated by her, although he knew he should not have responded.

Recorder Tom Moran said it was clear the ordeal had left the victim “terrified”.

Imposing a 33-month prison sentence, Recorder Moran said the restraining order would remain in place until March 2023.

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